MEMBERS: How Much Can a Christian Sin? (Transcript)

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Justin Perdue:

Welcome to the members podcast. We hope that the regular portion of the podcast was encouraging to you. We encourage you to give this episode out to those you know who are struggling with sin and think that they’ve done things that could never be forgiven, that repentance is not something that they could do, that God could not accept what they have done. We hope that it would be an encouragement to people like that, and honestly, it’s an encouragement to all of us as we consider the reality of our own corruption.

Jon Moffitt:

When I was in seminary, we had a preaching class. It was painful because you typically had guys who get really excited by listening to a really famous preacher, and they want to be like that guy. The seminary that I went to realized that they were producing guys who could not preach – they knew their exegesis, they knew Greek and Hebrew, they knew their history, and they got up and bored people to death. It was horrible.

Justin Perdue:

You could have just emailed us your sermon and it would’ve been more entertaining.

Jon Moffitt:

I was in this class and there are a couple of guys who were pretty decent. We were in class one morning, like 6:30 in the morning, and it was rough as we had to preach that early in the morning. The professor was a seasoned preacher. I think he had been in ministry for almost 35 years. He was highly respected and had a very deep accent. He would say funny things to the guys like, “I would rather eat four tacos than to listen to you preach.” It was pretty rough at times. When you get done and you’ve got no comment, that was a compliment. If you got done and he had a comment about tacos, it was not a good thing. So this guy gets up and preaches about Pharaoh and his hardened heart and just unleashes – Jonathan Edwards had nothing on this guy. It was pretty epic: wrath and hell and brimstone and fire. And he gets done and there’s no gospel; it was just flat “God’s going to crush you because you’re a worm.” He sits down after 20 minutes of this and the professor pauses for the longest time and then this is all he says: “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

Jon Moffitt:

I was glad somebody said something because that was the most gospel-less sermon I ever heard. It was just basically saying you’re a wretch, you’re horrible, and God hates you. Psalms 7:11, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalms 5:5, “God hates all evildoers.” I agree and I even used those verses last Sunday. I preached on the wrath of God, to which I had one of my deacons come up to me. They normally don’t hear me hit God’s wrath that hard because I’m trying to explain what’s in the text. This week was John 18:11, where Jesus says, “I must drink the cup of the Father, which is the cup of the Father’s wrath.” Anyway, the deacon was like, “I couldn’t wait for you to get to the gospel.” I don’t have a lot of people in my congregation cry, but there were a lot of tears because the wrath of God is there to lead you to the grace of God. And if you don’t get to the grace of God, then the wrath of God is just pure dread. That’s all you are left with.

Justin Perdue:

Not only the wrath of God, the first use of the law of God to crush us; not only to crush us but to drive us outside of ourselves to Christ, who has fulfilled the law for us. If we never get to those two places, if all we preach is wrath and then we preach the law as a weapon to crush people, we never give people Christ in our preaching. Like Spurgeon said, you need to quit. You just need to go do something else. Because if there’s no Christ in your sermon then what are you doing? You need to go home and never preach again.

Jon Moffitt:

It’s like a doctor who doesn’t ever help anybody.

Justin Perdue:

When we were at 1517 last October, I remember us having this conversation with a number of people asking this question: was I given Christ in the sermon? That’s a great question to ask. If you’re evaluating the preaching in your local church context, it’s a great question. Was I given Christ in the sermon? Was Christ held out to me in the sermon? Was the grace and the power of Christ extolled to me in the sermon today?

Jon Moffitt:

Where I was going with this is that this gentleman didn’t come up with that. That wasn’t exactly new. This style of preaching, which is the angry I’m-going-to-jump-down-your-throat, I’m-going-to-make-you-feel-guilty-so-you’ll-change-your-ways, which is the point of it. I look at that and I look at Paul and he says, “I don’t want to make anything known except for Christ and him crucified.” 2 Corinthians 3:18, “It is the glory of Christ that causes us to be transformed into his image.” 1 John says the same thing: what we have not been transformed into yet when he finally appears, but in thus we wait in this glorious transition, we purify ourselves as he is pure. The point of it is I want to draw people into repentance out of excitement and joy to what they receive. Because when they repent, they receive grace. Repentance Calvingelical world – the angry Calvinist preacher – basically his repentance means you don’t get punishment. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even the discipline of God is grace; it’s not anger, it’s grace. The famous sermon from Paul Washer – and I’m not saying everything that Paul Washer says is like that sermon (so for those of you who like Paul Washer, please don’t jump down my throat) – but the angry sermon that he was made famous for, that’s what I’m stressing. What I’m saying is that he’s speaking fear into them and not grace. And grace is what causes us to repent and rest in the joy of Christ.

Justin Perdue:

Paul Washer did come to mind, amongst a number of other preachers, when you were describing a style of preaching where fear is a motivator. It’s the whole discernment ministry thing and there’s so much that could be said about it. Because of terrible teaching and unhealthy church cultures and the like, have people been deceived into thinking that they are Christians when they probably have never understood the gospel? That’s obviously true in our context. Nominalism comes from somewhere and nominalism is a thing, but I will continue to beat this drum as long as I’m breathing. The way that you combat nominalism is not with hellfire and brimstone, and in fear, in condemnation, and law. The way that you combat nominalism – Christianity in name only – is with gospel clarity and union with Christ by faith.

Justin Perdue:

Take up the pattern of the apostles in how they speak to the church. The churches, by the way that the apostles are writing to them, are struggling with sin. The idea that the early church was this golden era is absolutely ludicrous. All you need to read is 1 Corinthians and the conversation is over. That church was a mess just like many of our churches are because there are sinners who comprise it. Paul’s pattern in that epistle though is to remind them of who they are in Christ and then to go about talking about how they’d then live together. He’s not condemning them and telling them they’re going to face the wrath of God.

Jon Moffitt:

This is why Theocast is becoming this mind-blowing experience for people where they’re like, “Wow, I’ve never heard this before.” It’s not new. The document we’re quoting is around 400-years-old and the theology is, of course, from Scripture so it’s much older. But the concepts have been around, were written and publicized for many, many years. This is why I criticize the angry preacher is that it’s not like these people know better and they just chose not to. I even look at children when I’m out in public. I see a child that is misbehaving in an over-the-top way, screaming and kicking in an aisle and throwing a fit. I look at that and I’m not angry at the child. I’m not even angry at the mom and dad. Even the mom and dad may have grown up in a broken home where they were never even shepherded. Our culture doesn’t do a very great job of educating parents on what to do to govern their children. And I look at Christianity in the same way where I’m not upset at him. I’m not angry. With preachers, I get a little bit more irritated with because the Bible does say that they should be careful what they say when they’re not careful in what they’re saying.

Justin Perdue:

They’re held to account. You’re standing in the place of God to give God’s word to His people and you’re spewing a bunch of nonsense. That’s a big deal.

Jon Moffitt:

I was watching something on YouTube recently and a Steven Furtick video popped up and so I watched a few minutes of it. There are a couple of things where he seems a lot gentler on now that he’s older. He’s definitely not as crazy as he used to be. He was like, “Look, I normally have you stand for the reading of Scripture, but this is 19 verses today so I’m going to have you sit.” And he started reading through it. As he kept preaching the conclusions that he made, which were total prosperity gospel, he actually feels like he’s preaching kindness and mercy when he actually brings the law on people.

Justin Perdue:

He’s putting people in bondage. When you tell people that they are conquerors because they have the Lord’s Spirit in them, what that means is that they’ll conquer all their circumstances. You’re going to have a hard time selling that to somebody whose mom just died from cancer, who just lost their job, and everything’s falling apart in their lives. And you’re telling them, “You’re a conqueror because you have the Holy Spirit in you. Maybe those promises are eternal and you might need to pump the brakes on this. Your life is going to go great, and you’re a champion.” That kind of talk. That’s another conversation for another time.

Justin Perdue:

I want to pick up on something that we did throw out in the regular podcast: the issue of church discipline. You said, what about unrepentant sin? What do we do when people are in this sustained posture of high handed, unrepentant, hard-hearted sin? Well, thankfully God has told us what to do in His word. We continually confront that individual. The prescription in Matthew 18, if I may briefly say, I don’t think literally means one time you go one-on-one, one more time you go in a group, and then the next time you take it to the church. I think it’s a pattern that Christ is laying out for us where you pursue this person individually, and then you take several people to try to pursue this person and call them to repentance.

Justin Perdue:

Finally, after attempts are clearly futile and this person remains dug in, we take it to the assembly to allow the church, the assembly, the ecclesia to act on this. We do this in our church context. It’s an instrument to be wielded with grace and compassion and precision. It’s not a blunt instrument to bludgeon people with. Sometimes church discipline is almost like a badge of honor that people will wear and they’re like, “We practice church discipline because we’re trying to weed out the ungodly.” That’s not the posture that we’re advocating on Theocast at all. We’re advocating the posture of the apostles and the posture of Jesus. We use this as an instrument that the Lord has given us that we might see our brothers and sisters restored. We do it with compassion. We do it with patience. We do it with tenderness. We do it prayerfully pleading with that individual to repent. The Lord has given us instruments to use when people are in unrepentant sin.

Justin Perdue:

I’ve commented on this before and I think it bears repeating: the harsh language in the New Testament towards sinners is really reserved toward those who are unrepentant. The struggling saint who is bothered by his or her sin – the New Testament is compassionate toward that person and is very tender in general in its language. The person who is high-handed, prideful, hard-hearted, unrepentant – that’s when the New Testament uses that jarring language of “you need to repent”. I think that matters for us, too. We’re not saying that harsh language is never to be used towards sin. It is, but only in these specific contexts.

Jon Moffitt:

I would say the harshest language that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians is for those who aren’t willing to show love and compassion.

Justin Perdue:

And the harshest language Paul uses perhaps in any of his letters is in Galatians where he’s defending the gospel from people who are trying to weave works back into it.

Jon Moffitt:

Yeah. That they emasculate themselves.

Justin Perdue:

That Christ is of no use to them and that they have fallen from grace.

Jon Moffitt:

So with church discipline, unfortunately we’ve had to walk through some of those steps in our own context in our young little church. And it’s painful. And we, as elders, we are very patient because we understand people are frail. And this particular situation, this person did not grow up in church. Answering common questions about things that our culture kind of takes for granted, like living together and not being married has them say, “The Bible says something to that? I didn’t know that.”

Jon Moffitt:

Just common questions about things like that where you have to be patient with people and work through them. Are you dealing with a lack of education? If you are, then let’s look at it. Are they like, “No, I don’t care. I’m going to do whatever I want and that’s just how it’s going to be.” I had college students who were this way and they got invited. They never grew up in the church. I can think of at least 10 students, when I was there for the seven years I was there. Our service was the first time they’d ever been to church in their life.

Jon Moffitt:

They just assumed what Christianity was like. We would do coffee Bible studies and they would ask all kinds of questions you would think are common, like everybody knows and they didn’t. I wasn’t looking at the student like, “Oh, they’re an open rebellion.” They were shocked. Like, “I didn’t know the Bible thought that was wrong. I just assumed…” And whatever. That’s different than the person who grew up in church, knows what they are doing is wrong, and are like, “I just don’t care. I know I’m not supposed to do that.” Well, let me explain to you that this is not healthy and not helpful and if you are unwilling to see this, then —

Justin Perdue:

We are mindful too of the context of many of the New Testament epistles. This is in the early years of the church being established and it’s a unique era in redemptive history. Jew and Gentile are coming together in the same assembly, trusting God’s Messiah, and learning how to live together. If we lose sight of those realities, we’ll rip the New Testament epistles out of context pretty quickly.

Justin Perdue:

When the apostles’ right to tell the church how they are to live in Christ Jesus with one another, we need to remember that for many of these Gentile believers, they would not have had categories for a lot of this stuff. It’s like what you’re just alluding to with the college students. These Gentile believers have come from pagan cultures and they’re not going to have a kind of morality. I’m using that word. They’re not going to have the morality prescribed by the Lord in view. They’re not going to be thinking in terms of valuing what the Lord values. They’re not going to be thinking about living life together with the way God says we should, and so the apostles are just trying to make this plain to people. “Now that you have come to know God in Christ Jesus, here is how you live life in this community called the church.” It’s not this stinging epistle. They’re not just stinging letters written to people and threatening them that if they don’t clean up their ways, they’re going to go to hell. That’s not the tone and tenor of what’s being written. It’s much more pastoral in telling people how they’re now to live together in Christ because many of them might not have known. They continue to exhort them. “Hey, you used to be that. You’re not that anymore. Live this way now.”

Jon Moffitt:

For instance, if you put me in a pulpit and the people sitting in front of me were an open rebellion like, “I know this is wrong. I don’t really want to repent.” Even then I would say, “What is going to truly help this person see that they’re trapped?” Galatians 6:1 says that, with the spirit of gentleness and meekness, you are to go to them. If I stand on that pulpit and I come at them angry, I’m not sure I’m obeying what Paul said there. I don’t think I am. When I’m dealing with someone who’s an open rebellion, I am to reflect to them the meekness and the kindness that God has shown me in how I treat them.

Jon Moffitt:

I’ll say, “Do you understand? Let me just take you to the garden real quick.” And if you believe you’re a believer and you have faith in Jesus, but you just don’t want to stop doing this -which I have had those conversations and I know JP has as well – I just say, “I don’t think you understand the severity of your sin that you continue to almost wink at and say it’s not a big deal. Christ looked at the cup that is holding this sin that you are talking about right now and it caused him to almost have fear unto death. He almost died out of being afraid of facing God’s wrath on your behalf. I’m not saying this to scare you. There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m hoping you understand the severity of your offense and just how grotesque your sin is in the eyes of God, and that you truly do need to repent and receive mercy and grace in this. Because you will never have the joy you’re trying to pursue while you pursue this sin. You’re going to actually lack joy.” And that’s how I have and will handle it.

Justin Perdue:

In the case of talking to people who are an open rebellion, I agree with you in terms of tone. I’m not going to be yelling and screaming, but it will inform me of a few things that need to be communicated – some of which you’ve already outlined – and I’ll be brief: one, let’s be very clear on the holiness of God: how He is wrathful against sin because He’s righteous and good. What kind of God would He be if He was okay with sin? Then to talk about, as you already alluded to, the horrific nature of sin and what it really is like. I love the phrase like your kind of winking at this and this is so much worse than you could have ever imagined. Then to talk about the work of Christ in order to atone for and satisfy for sin, and also to provide you with righteousness. Here’s what Christ has done for you. The union with Christ, by faith, for all those who are trusting in him means that you have been set free from the dominion of sin. You obey because you can now and because by God’s spirit, there is a desire for you to obey. The flesh is real but the Spirit is also at work in you. I think those are the ways that you go about it instead of scaring people and scolding them towards repentance. It’s more of a winsome pleading. Let’s be very clear about the gospel, the work of Christ, and all the rest, and just help them understand that sin will lead nowhere good in their lives.

Jon Moffitt:

One last thought. When Paul says to treat them as unbelievers, I don’t treat unbelieving people in my life like I’m trashing them. I treat them with patience and kindness because I’m trying to draw them into the gospel. All I’m saying is that your mission has changed from encouragement to gospel.

Justin Perdue:

Exactly. The big thing that happens if we do remove somebody from the church, in the case of ex-communication, we are ex-communing them. We’re removing them from the Lord’s table. That’s what it means. It’s not that they’re not allowed at the service. We have people ask, “This person was ex-communicated. Can I invite them to come to service?” Of course, you can. We’d love to have them here. Now they’re not going to be invited to the table until they repent, but we would love to have them here so that they can sit under the word; that God might use the means of the word to bring about repentance; even the fellowship of the saints. By the fellowship of the saints, I mean the context of the church. We don’t treat our unbelieving family, friends, and neighbors like trash. We love them. The same is true for those who have been removed from the fellowship.

Justin Perdue:

A lot more could be said, I’m sure, but we’ve gone on quite a while in this members podcast edition. We hope it has been helpful in some ways as we’ve sort of meandered here, there, and everywhere and talked about preaching and church discipline and several other things.

Justin Perdue:

I want to thank the members again sincerely for your support of Theocast. We do say this and we mean it from the heart that we could not do what we do without your support. Continue to spread the word about Theocast. Continue to give other people the resources to listen to and read. Continue to pray for the future of this ministry as we have big hopes and goals and visions for it. Obviously, it’s in the Lord’s hands, but the Lord uses people like you to help us accomplish these goals as well. Thank you for listening and we look forward to another conversation next week.

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